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The Dartmouth
May 29, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Homecoming presents unique experiences for transfer students

Transfer students are thrown into Dartmouth’s fall traditions without the comfort of class

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Dartmouth fall is in full swing. By this point in the term, you have likely been subjected to incessant Instagram stories of fall foliage — myself admittedly included in the onslaught of pretty pictures of leaves. You have probably seen Sun God’s eerie strolls around campus, witnessed fraternity pledges complete their “technically-not-hazing” pledge tasks (I personally enjoyed the elevator bellboy in Baker-Berry Library) and enjoyed the muted calm of a campus after the social apocalypse of rush. You may have also sensed the nervous trembling of the Harvard football team as it prepares for its Oct. 29 battle against the Big Green. 

For members of the Classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025, this mid-fall mania is a familiar feeling. But how does this eclectic autumnal scene appear to a transfer student?

The sheer number of Dartmouth traditions is overwhelming enough for first-year students, but they at least get a buffer period to adjust to a new world of slang, norms and traditions that walks the thin sociological line between culture and cult. Moreover, incoming students can forge class kinship in their overwhelming introduction to Dartmouth.Transfer students — thrown into a class that has already bonded — don’t necessarily have this luxury. 

“Dartmouth is so culty and class cohesion is a big thing,” Min Hur ’24, who transferred to Dartmouth in 2020, said. “The College’s effort is never sufficient. We are logistically introduced to the College, but never culturally.” 

Hur added that while transfer students participate in part of the current first-year orientation, Dartmouth “can do so much more” to support its transfers.

“Getting to Dartmouth as a transfer student, you miss the whole big step of events that everyone goes through,” Biki Bonilla-Serrano ’25, who transferred this year, agreed. “It’s a big difference experiencing [traditions] as a freshman versus with the ‘new’ freshmen.”

In turn, Homecoming season — with its seemingly boundless array of customs and traditions — might just represent the peak of a transfer student’s sense of lostness. “Who should I run around the bonfire with?” It’s hard to appreciate Homecoming, in all its warmth and excitement, while wondering whether or not Dartmouth has transitioned from an unfamiliar landscape to something resembling a home. 

At the same time,  Dartmouth’s traditions are a part of the College’s appeal — to first-years and transfers alike — so the anticipation for Homecoming might not be so apprehensive. 

“I’m feeling pretty excited,” Bonilla-Serrano said. “My old college never really had these grand events, at least not to the extent of Dartmouth.”

“My old school didn’t have what Dartmouth has, which is really cool and I value it,” Hur added. She said that her first Homecoming was extra strange, since she was a member of the Class of 2023 at her previous school. 

“I’m a ’23, who’s a ’24, who’s doing [Homecoming] with the ’25s,” she said. “I joke that this is like my third freshman year.”

Sevie Browne ’23, on the other hand, did not experience a typical Dartmouth Homecoming until 2021 — a year after she transferred — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t think that my experience as a transfer has colored my experience with Homecoming at all, because by the time I was experiencing Homecoming I was very well integrated into Dartmouth, and I had a very solid community,” Browne said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on and it can be very overwhelming for any Dartmouth student, but I don’t think that experience was unique to me.” 

Browne makes an important point: Many students on campus, transfers and non–transfers alike, appear to have an abnormal relationship with Homecoming. Factoring in an off-term here and a COVID term there, this might be some upperclassmen’s first experience of the event. The D-Plan offers everyone a slightly different Dartmouth experience, making the College perhaps one of the better destinations for a transfer student — there isn’t all that much difference between a member of the Class of 2024 who transferred and a member who stayed home during the pandemic and then studied abroad last fall. 

At the end of the day, Homecoming is what we make of it. Regardless of when students experience their first Homecoming — with their class as a first-year student, with younger peers as a transfer or as an upperclassmen after terms off or abroad — they will be thrown into an iconic Dartmouth tradition headfirst. The magic of Homecoming will remain throughout the years, there for transfers and non-transfers alike.